What if Kipper Doesn’t Retire?


– pic via Dinur Blum


It’s assumed by almost everyone heading into 2013-14 that Miikka Kiprusoff will opt out of the final year of his contract and head back to Finland to fish and be revered as demi-god by his countrymen. The soon-to-be 37 year old netminder suffered through the worst stretch of his Flames tenure in the lock-out shortened season, struggles that were compounded by injury. His below replacement level performance, mixed with the organization’s lackluster redundancy in net, resulted in the club’s plunge down to the bottom of the Western Conference and kick-started the rebuild. Kipper himself would have been one of the assets moved at the deadline along with Iginla and Bouwmeester, but he leveraged the threat of retiring to short circuit a move to Toronto.

The Flames have operated this summer as if Kipper is already gone. Karri Ramo was signed to a two year deal and Joey MacDonald was re-upped as well. 26-year old Swiss Veteran Reto Berra will also be in the mix while Joni Ortio and Laurent Brossoit will jockey for playing time in the minors.

The thing is, Kipper hasn’t retired. Not officially at least (regardless of what he has said to the Finnish press), so there remains the possibility, however remote, that he will show up at the Flames training camp in a months time with pads in hand. What then?

Keep him

The first option is obviously to let him duel with Ramo for the starters role. Although he was putrid last season, I doubt Kipper’s 2013-14 performance is actually representative of his true talent, even given his advancing age. He hasn’t been truly elite for some time, but I would expect him to be at least around league average in the short-term.

Of course, Kiprusoff staying in Calgary means the Flames retain his $5.83M cap hit (despite a $1.5M actual salary) and it creates a logjam in the crease. Neither of those are huge concerns, frankly, since the Flames boast a lot of unused budget space and there’s no particular up-and-coming talent who would be terribly sidelined by one more year of Kipper clogging the crease (that we know of at this point), but then again those are also minor costs with no real return.

Kipper’s not getting any better. Even if he rebounds from his lackluster lock-out year, he is entering the steep down curve of his career. There’s no tangible long term upside for the team if Kipper comes back and splits time with Ramo. In fact, one of the organization’s problems the last few years was their enduring inability or unwillingness to move on from the hero of 2004 and start to seriously investigate alternatives. The Flames probably won’t be contending for anything this season, so it would be best served testing out their various options like Ramo and Berra in order to firmly judge just what they have in those players. Kipper getting any sort of playing time in their stead is counter-productive to the club’s objectives beyond 2013-14.

Trade Him

If Miikka is determined to play out his contract, then the Flames best option would be to move him to whoever might have interest. The Leafs are not an option now that they’ve acquired Jonathan Bernier, so a short list of possible trading partners got a bit shorter this summer.

The New York Islanders and Columbus Blue Jackets are a pair of clubs with underwhelming depth behind their incumbents – for CBJ, it’s Curtis McElhinney behind Sergei Bobrovsky and for NYI it’s Kevin Poulin behind Evgeni Nabokov. New York has ample cap space (about $15M) while the Flames and Jackets would have to get creative in order to fit Kiprusoff under the Jackets’ ceiling.

There is also the Predators, who don’t seem to have a back-up for Pekka Rinne. Former second rounder Magnus Hellberg had a decent season in the AHL last year, but the 22-year old hasn’t even played 40 games on North American ice yet. Carter Hutton, a 27-year old AHL journeyman, is the only other puck stopper currently under contract with the Preds.

Like Columbus, Nashville doesn’t quite have enough space to fit Kipper, so again the Flames would have to eat some cap or take a contract back in the deal to make it work.

Naturally, the probability of this option is dependent on how much demand there would be for a 37-year old tender coming off a terrible year and boasting a nearly $6M cap hit. It would also depend on Kipper agreeing to be traded, unlike the deadline where he nixed a move to the Leafs. Calgary’s (or the trading partner’s) options in that case are limited to suspending the player for not living up to the terms of his contract I suppose.

Demote Him

Another rather unsavoury option would be to send the veteran to the minors in order to ensure playing time for Ramo and company in the NHL. This pushes the logjam down the depth chart a bit and under the new rules of the revised CBA, Kipper’s big cap hit wouldn’t disappear, so it’s less than ideal. To say nothing of demoting a former beloved star to the AHL in the final year of his last NHL contract (although they were willing to do it to Conroy).

A move like this would more or less be a veiled nudge to the player to retire, which I’m guessing is what Kipper would do rather than ride buses for the Heat.


If Kipper decides to return to the NHL, I think it would behoove both himself and the team to investigate whether he could be traded before training camp arrives. There’s no good reason, besides perhaps nostalgia, for him to don a Flames jersey again. Meaning, the possibility of Kipper playing for someone else should be determined prior to training camp and the onset of the year, because things could get pretty awkward for both parties otherwise.

On the other hand, Kiprusoff could officially retire in the next few weeks, rendering all of this moot.

  • Michael

    The only reason Kipper would play out the final year is pride. He didn’t have a great season last year, not that the d corp was much help, so he might want another kick at the can to finish his carear on a more ‘positive’ note.

    However, looking at the team that would play in front of him, I don’t see much to entice Kipper to return. I’m pretty sure that we have seen the last of Kipper in a Flames jersey.

  • Lordmork

    Does someone need to get on the phone and explain to Kipper that he needs to do more than just tell Finnish media that he’s done? Like maybe write a press release or something.

    I have to admit, I have been a little worried as the summer dragged on that he wouldn’t actually end up retiring. But the organization clearly seems to think he’s going to retire, so I put my hope in that.

  • Wonder why Management are taking so long to make the announcement of his retirement, maybe MSM should be asking Feaster. Maybe Flames are giving him maximum amount of time to have a change of heart. If he did decide to play 1 more year, then we will get an asset, any asset for him, where right now, the return is zilch. So why rush the announcement. I don’t necessarily agree that Kipper hasn’t been elite for some time. Last year yes, the year before, he was amazing, even though his numbers didn’t really reflect that. Even his last few years this year, he showed why he is was an elite goaltender & how could a guy with that talent not want to play a little longer. Given the right team, he could pull some Brodeur like goaltending for some team.

  • I suspect the silence on this front is a combination of two factors. 1) Kiprusoff’s historical reticence to say anything of note to anyone at any time during the summer. 2) The Flames waiting for the smoke to blow over on the whole “It was mutually understood that Kiprusoff wouldn’t play the last year of his contract.” stuff.

    With Daly’s recent announcement on any potential attacks on these back-diving-under-the-table-arrangements and the summer ending, news should be coming out, one way or another (but I also suspect we have seen the last of Kiprusoff).

    As a follow up though Kent, I have two questions

    1) Why does it matter if the cap space stays on the Flames’ books this year? I see no chance it matters at all.

    2) The Nashville and Columbus options seem like an opportunity for a “Hey, we have a big cap hit, cheap contract guy we could ship you for [Dreadfully overpriced soon to be UFA type guy] we could swap, if you kicked in [late round draft pick/somewhat potentially useful prospect type]” type of deal. Thoughts? Lots of time in the summer for idle and likely pointless speculation.

  • The Last Big Bear

    Well, I suppose a potential benefit to Kiprusoff returning would be that the Flames would be better at playing hockey. Which, I understand, is something that they still plan to do do from time to time.

    I know you’ve all jumped off the deep end into bizarro-Oilers world, where losing is good and winning is bad, but there is something to be said for a hockey team winning the occasion hockey game.

    If your team is good at drafting and development, then moving a few spots in the draft order won’t matter, you’ll still rebuild well.

    If your team sucks at drafting and development, then moving a few spots in the draft order wont matter, your rebuild will fail regardless..

    So I’m not saying Kipper should come back, im just saying that if something helps the team win a few games, and has no significant future costs, then it’s probably not a bad thing.

    Although my personal preference would be to see the Flames use that cap space to over-pay a good UFA to bring in a quality skater to mentor and shelter the noobs.

    • The Last Big Bear

      alas, it’s unlikely that kipper will help the team more than karri ramo will at even strength.

      i think what’s probably happening is that kiprusoff does not retire before his contract is done to avoid league investigation into possible circumvention – but he won’t show up to camp. the cap hit doesn’t matter at this point and the flames could pay him or they could “suspend” him to sit out. either way, he doesn’t play a game for the flames.

  • RKD

    I would like to see the Flames trade him and get something for him. I would be happy with a pick or prospect of some kind. A roster player would be my last choice. If he does retire, he should be the goalie coach instead of having Clint Malarchuk or a back up role and could split the games 50/50 but if they don’t want him as one of the goalies he’s run out of options.

  • I believe the only way Feaster will bring him back (if Kipper wants to stay) is if he understands that he could be traded at the deadline without threats of retirement. In which case I’m all for him coming back as a tradeable asset, with the hopes of him returning to form.

  • The Last Big Bear

    If kipper doesn’t retire I hope he plays well when he plays. When I go to games I go to be entertained. Watching a Flames legend rekindle some magic is worth the price of admission. I hope our team never plays to lose and I hope that if Kipper suits up he is dynamite. Nothing better than the dome rocking with a Kipper chant after a huge cross crease glove save in the last minute to preserve a win.

    Having said that I think he’s done….

  • If Kipper does not retire the Flames need to trade clearly signifying the rebuild. Keeping would undermine the entire endeavor. I love him and he the best goalie the Flames have ever had but his time here is done.

  • The Last Big Bear

    I never expected Kipper to go out in such a sorry-sac way but I think the lockout hindered him in a big way.

    If we were gonna lose a season and reboot last year was it.

    Glad it happened so we could change the guard. It might not have happened if Kipper was his normal self last year.

    Either way I think we are better off on the path we are headed down now. I dont think we will be all that bad if we get descent goaltending.

    I think the potential is there for Hudler, Cammalleri and Baertschi to score around 60+ points. Glencross could score 30 goals.

    Considering our faceoff percentage should be alot better next year, with the addition of actual centers, I’d expect to have far better posession next year.

    Our center ice and goaltending positions area the true wildcards in determining our fate next year. They have alot of new faces, mostly young and unproven faces, so we dont yet know what to expect out of them.

    Dont get me wrong Im not gonna expect the playoffs out of this group. But I think they could be a fun team to watch with Hartleys system and youthful exuberance trying to prove their worth…

  • RedMan

    You guys know it’s quite likely that kipper isn’t as bad now as many of you think. It is more likely he just didn’t do a damn thing during the lockout because he expected the year to be washed out. He probably would have played pretty well with a bit of offseason training.

  • The Last Big Bear

    Regardless of whether it be Ramo or Kilrusoff in net, I’ll be expecting about a .910 sv% this season, which IIRC is a significant upgrade over last season.

    Unless McDonald is the starter. In which case, god help us all. They’ll need those Bow River train bridges refurbished into tip-top shape, lest they fail under the weight of legions of Flames fans jumping in despair.

    Kipper and Ramo sharing the crease would almost certainly be the best-performing option in net for the Flames.

  • The Last Big Bear

    Kipper still has game but it is up to him whether he still wants to compete a high level.

    Kipper will return for at least one game and then announce his retirement.

    Flames will honor his career and let him go out in style.

  • RexLibris

    Answer to the article’s title:

    He could hang out with Luongo during the warmup in Canucks/Flames games and compare contract situations.

    Seriously though, it would be a bad scenario all around.

    If he plays well it means that the Flames end up with an inflated record that does harm to the “draft-high” strategy Feaster appears to want now. It also forces players like Ramo, who I believe planned to come over because he felt a starting position was available, to be a backup. At the same time it forces Joey MacDonald and the rest of the goaltending gang down the development ladder.

    If he plays poorly it means the Flames now have a large cap hit backup with diminishing asset value whose legacy is in danger of being tarnished.

    I don’t know a great deal about Kiprusoff’s personality other than that he is somewhat reticent to speak in public. However, what I have heard often enough in forums such as these leads me to believe that his strength as a teammate would not necessarily be as a mentor to younger goalies. Please, correct me if you feel I’m mistaken here.

    • beloch

      Calgary’s backup goalie bench has gotten a bit of a bad rep over the last few years. Some even call it cursed! I haven’t seen any solid evidence that it’s because of Kipper’s lack of mentoring skills though. More likely it’s a combination of two things:

      1. Kipper is a workhorse. He can play more games than average without his wheels coming off.
      2. Neither Sutter or Feaster ever bothered to hire a backup that didn’t look like a hot mess standing next to Kipper.

      In 2013 #1 finally became false. Who knows whether it was age, the compressed schedule or a freak injury, but Kipper finally hit a brick wall. If he returns this season Ramo may finally be a backup good enough for the Flames to give Kipper the rest he probably needs at this stage in his career. If he doesn’t return the curse of the backup will continue unabated. Let’s say Ramo’s everything Kipper ever was with a side of sautéed reindeer. Berra’s stat-sheet does not inspire confidence, so the most generous assessment of him is “unproven”. We know MacDonald sucks. The Flames have some promising younger goalies, but are any of them ready? Yeah, hello again Mr. #2.

      Does anyone know when Kipper’s retirement has to be made official? I have a funny feeling he could stay retired if Ramo turns out to be good, but might come out of retirement to “save the day” (TM) if Ramo turns out to be less than great.

    • The Last Big Bear

      Sorry Rex, I think the Kool-Aid has gotten to you.

      I can tell you’re an Oilers fan because you use phrases like “causing an inflated record” instead of “winning”, and you say it like its a bad thing. Yes, he might cause the team to “win” some games.

      Kipper coming back only forces Ramo into a backup spot if he is better than Ramo. That’s not guaranteed to be the case, but if true it just gives the team a better backup.

      And Kipper coming back needn’t push anyone down the development ladder. Joey McDonald turns 34 this season. Reto Berra turns 27 and is coming off a .906 sv% in the Swiss league. Either him or McDonald can become the odd-man-out in a 3-goalie bullpen in Calgary, and it won’t be hurting anyone’s NHL career.

      “If he plays poorly it means the Flames now have a high cap hit backup with diminishing asset value whose legacy is in danger of being tarnished.”

      if he doesn’t play, the Flames will have a zero-value asset. His legacy will always be 2004, and his subsequent Vezina. It won’t matter whether he goes out like a chump on a losing season, or goes out like a chump on a losing shortened season.

      Whether he makes a good goalie mentor or not depends on the pupil, I suppose. I’ve never met him or Ramo personally, so have no opinion on whether it would be a good idea or not from that perspective.

  • RedMan

    Kipper is NOT coming back….

    the real question is- do the Flames try and buy a Tim Thomas style rental to get them over the hump or to be “good now”? that was my fear this summer, but it seems Feaster has passed on the FA market for forwards and goalies, which in my opinion only makes sense if one wants to draft top 5 for a couple of years.

    I know there has been lot’s of talk about trading more vets, those with any trade value, at the deadline, i.e. Cammi, Hudler, GlenX, Gio, Wideman… and this is what worries me… the team can sell off too many experienced guys and leave nobody to mentor the younger guys. In my opinion, if we don’t want to see our up-n-comers struggle like they have up north, we need the right mix and right kind of vets in the stable. Then again, I have no way of knowing if said vets are the right kind.

    Is Cammi the right kind? Gio? Hudler or Glenx? how many more can we get rid of and still have enough experience at the right positions to mentor the youth?

  • RedMan

    Just how valuable are those later round draft picks?

    we are find out, as the Flames are going to be icing a team with only a couple first rounders, a few second rounders and a slew of late round draftees and undrafted players…

    Did you know GlenX was undrafted?